A Healthy Holiday Survival Guide

10 Strategies to Sail Through Successfully

Here we are again at the holidays. Wow, weren’t we just there? What a year! While the holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends and hit pause, it may also be a time of stress, unmet expectations, and demands on our physical well-being sometimes leading to weight gain, lack of sleep, exercise, and exhaustion. Emotions may run high and opportunities for loneliness and depression increase, especially for folks living alone, those without friends and family close by, or those who have experienced a loss. So, how can we find (and spread) more joy and well-being throughout the holidays and come out whole on the other end?

Lydia is a passionate advocate of healthy living. She has launched and positioned many health and wellness-related companies, products, technologies and organizations receiving more than 100 awards nationally and internationally. Her focus in the health sector is specifically on life sciences, aging and longevity. She is a partner and investor in several recognized national brands. She sits on the board of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, whose mission is to eliminate the threat of age-related disease for today’s and future generations. It is the only independent research organization globally dedicated to extending the healthy years of life. Like the scientists at the Buck, Graham envisions it will be possible for people to enjoy life at 95 as much as at 25. To support Buck’s mission, please visit www.buckinstitute.org.

It’s not surprising January is the month with the most new member sign-ups at health clubs. On average, numerous studies say Americans gain around one pound between mid-November and January 1. That isn’t a lot unless it accumulates year over year or is added to previous shutdown weight gain.

If the ultimate goal is to sail through your holidays, enjoy them and be ready-set-go in January 2022 instead of paying for your holiday transgressions, here are 10 things to consider. (Incorporate a few and you will likely feel better; check off all 10 and hit a home run). Some of these might surprise you—think whole person wellness.

Bay Area resident, Jill Kinney, is a 30-year veteran and visionary in the fitness and wellness industry. Currently, as co-founder and chairman of Active Wellness, LLC and founder and president of Club One Fitness, Jill notes, “As we embark on a season of giving, this should include giving back to yourself, too. Self-care is more important than ever. Focus on finding ways throughout your busy day to care for you. Here are three wellness strategies you can implement to create a healthier holiday season.”

1. Unplug. First, stop scrolling. Ever look up from your phone only to notice 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or maybe even more, have gone by? Put down the phone and give yourself those extra minutes to do something self-gratifying and rewarding. Turn off your phone. For one hour, or one day, unplug and take 20 deep breaths.

2. Practice the art of saying no. It’s okay to decline events and obligations (even virtual ones) if that means finding time to show up as your healthiest, best self for the people and other events that mean the most to you. While it might seem hard at first, once you turn down those extra things on your calendar, you will likely enjoy a sense of relief and more time to recharge in between commitments. It’s easy to say, “Thanks for including me, but I have too much on my plate right now.” Or simply, “No, thanks!”

3. Focus on the Positive. Practice “5×5” gratitude. For five consecutive days, write five things for which you’re thankful. Focus on your strengths! Instead of trying to rid yourself of less-than-ideal habits, it can be more rewarding to give energy to expanding your positive attributes. 

Ewa Doctor, Swedish nutritionist at Blue Wave Medicine (yes, Doctor is her last name) and author of a new book, The Redox Plan (soon to be available on Amazon) suggests:

4. Add quality. The holiday season is about giving. It feels good to give! Quality giving feels even better! Quality giving is more personal. Examples of gifts could be a visit, a phone call, a shared meal, or perhaps a hike or walk-talk. Small gestures show you are thinking of the other person and that you want to share yourself with them. If you are giving a gift, take the time to make the wrapping special. Small efforts go a long way. Quality is reflected in your actions and intentions. Quality reflects on who you are and shows you value the recipient. Add quality to your thoughts and actions to create a more meaningful token of generosity. 

5. Add poise. Poise is more than posture. It’s about holding yourself in a confident manner. With all the holiday stress, adding poise to your morning will jumpstart your day. And it’s so simple. Start each morning with a power pose. Stand tall with your arms stretched high in a winner position and with a smile on your face. Take a deep breath in, then a long exhale. Repeat three times. See how good this easy addition to your day feels. 

6 Add awe. The holiday season offers many magical moments to inspire awe, but usually, we are so busy we miss them. Add awe by being present in each moment. Experience awe by connecting with all your senses. See the brilliant holiday lights, inhale the fresh scents of the pine trees, savor the bites of fresh holiday treats, get lost in the music of the season. Your full presence heightens your awareness and pleasure of each moment and inspires awe. 

Lastly, here are a few strategies I’ve embraced over many holidays:

7. Maintain your wellbeing routine as much as possible. Maximize your physical well-being by eating healthfully when you’re not socializing and making the healthiest choices when you are. Try to stay away from high carbs and sugar: these will deplete your energy by lowering your blood sugar. Forgive yourself if you indulge and don’t dwell or harp on it. Move on. Hold to your sleep pattern as much as possible. Michael Breus, Ph.D., a.k.a. “America’s Sleep Doctor,” notes, “It’s important to rise at the same time every morning.” Of course, I suppose if you stay out late, you can have a pass. But don’t make it a habit. Try to stay on your exercise program and insure you move throughout your day. Science shows sitting is the new smoking. It’s important to stay hydrated, as we tend to drink more alcohol and caffeinated beverages during the holidays (sometimes a vicious cycle). Make sure you are countering with lots of non-caffeinated liquids.

8. Never go to parties or holiday dinners hungry. This has always been a big one for me. In fact, unless it’s a dinner party, I often eat before I go. If you’re full, you are more likely to eat only a few appetizers versus devouring everything you see the moment you arrive. Plus, if you drink, you won’t be drinking on an empty stomach (which is much safer anyway) and you won’t be caught with a mouthful just as someone tries to speak with you. And a bonus, is you won’t have to worry about spinach in your teeth when they shoot that photo.  Remember, you are there to enjoy the people, performance, etc. If it’s a dinner party, I usually eat an appetizer before I go so, I’m not starving when I arrive. That way I have lots of energy to graciously focus on my host and fellow guests. If you are hosting, don’t neglect to ask about your guests’ allergies or dietary preferences.

9. Just let it go. Holidays emotions can run hot. Sometimes, we celebrate with family members who don’t always share our views. Remember this is not the place to be right or prove your point: avoid arguments. Listen and breathe. Most people just want to be heard. (By the way, a little prior meditation beforehand can really take the edge off these encounters). Let go of being perfect or creating the perfect holiday. We’re all human; things don’t always go as planned. Roll with it and enjoy what is happening. Sometimes the mishaps create the best memories—if you keep your sense of humor.

10. Remember others not as fortunate. Who in your circle might be alone? Reach out: invite them, call them, let them know you care. Who in your community is struggling? Support them either with your time, your money, or both. There is a great line in a Mumford & Sons song: “And where you invest your love, you invest your life.” Now, isn’t that the true gift and spirit of the holidays?

And on that note … Wishing you the healthiest and happiest of holidays!
Be well.